Anthony Davis, Kyle Lowry top list of 2014 All-Star Game snubs
The NBA All-Star Game rosters were finalized on Thursday with the announcement of the reserves for each conference.
The 24 players who made the cut are listed below; the starters, who were voted in by fans and announced last week, are in italics. The coaches picked the reserves.
Eastern Conference: Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Dwyane Wade (Heat), LeBron James (Heat), Paul George (Pacers), Carmelo Anthony (Knicks), Chris Bosh (Heat), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Roy Hibbert (Pacers), Joe Johnson (Nets), Paul Millsap (Hawks), Joakim Noah (Bulls) and John Wall (Wizards)
Western Conference: Stephen Curry (Warriors), Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Kevin Durant (Thunder), Blake Griffin (Clippers), Kevin Love (Timberwolves), LaMarcus Aldridge (Trail Blazers), James Harden (Rockets), Dwight Howard (Rockets), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Tony Parker (Spurs) and Chris Paul (Clippers)
Here's a list of 10 players who failed to make the cut:
One wonders if Afflalo, 28, would have been selected to his first All-Star Game had the voting simply been held a month earlier. It's not easy to earn a trip when your team is as bad as the 12-35 Magic, but Afflalo came out of the gates sizzling this season. He's fallen off a bit in January (16.2 points, 43.4 percent shooting), but he's still averaging 20 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists, all career highs. He's also shooting 42 percent from three-point range and his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 17.6 easily surpasses Joe Johnson's (14.9). Afflalo is one of just 15 players averaging at least 20 points, and he joins Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins as the only members of that list to be excluded from the All-Star team.
On the East's backcourt pecking order, Afflalo trails Wade, Wall, Irving and DeRozan (who has extraordinarily similar stats but plays on a much better team), but he was a more worthy candidate than Johnson, whose Nets have only recently turned around a dreadful season. Afflalo can take consolation in Kyle Lowry's joining him on the snub list (see below) despite being more deserving than Irving, DeRozan and Johnson.
Conley had three major factors working against him: The Grizzlies are outside the playoff picture in the West; his point guard competition is absolutely stacked; and he doesn't have any previous All-Star or All-NBA recognition to help give him a name-awareness boost. Together, that makes him just about a prototypical snub candidate.
Still, he's been awesome this season, keeping Memphis afloat during Marc Gasol's extended injury absence by averaging career highs of 18.2 points and 6.3 assists. His PER of 21.3 ranks fifth among point guards and he's a certified two-way difference maker, as evidenced by his 2013 All-Defensive second-team selection. When team records and stats are considered, Conley, 26, is behind Paul, Curry and Parker on the food chain, but he should have been in the discussion with the likes of Lillard and Harden, two players who aren't quite as complete but provide more scoring punch and bring the "wow" factor while playing for teams with better records.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings
Individually, possessing a reputation as a problem child and playing for a team with a poor record are sufficient causes for All-Star snubbing. Together, as in the case of Cousins, who is making some progress on toning down his antics as Sacramento struggles to a 15-30 record, it's almost impossible to earn an All-Star nod, particularly in the loaded West.
Disqualifying attributes aside, Cousins, 23, has made strides in his fourth season, averaging 22.6 points and 11.6 rebounds and posting a 26.6 PER that ranks No. 6 in the NBA. He is one of only four players averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, and joins Anthony Davis (below) as the only guys from that category not selected for the All-Star Game. Cousins is also the only player among the league's top 10 scorers not to earn an All-Star nod.
The Kings' record almost certainly proved to be his undoing, as the three West frontcourt reserve selections -- Aldridge, Howard and Nowitzki -- are all having great seasons for considerably better teams. That Cousins is the back-line defender for the league's No. 29 defense doesn't help, either. The West's frontcourt pool is so deep it demands a nearly immaculate reputation and résumé. Cousins, despite his eye-opening numbers, just isn't there yet.
Anthony Davis, Pelicans
The reasons that Davis didn't make the cut are obvious: He's young, the 19-26 Pelicans aren't good and there are tons of worthy candidates at his position. Equally obvious, though, is what an impressive season he's having. Still just 20, Davis is averaging 20.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, a league-leading 3.3 blocks and 1.5 steals. In addition to leading his team in scoring, rebounding and blocks, Davis ranks in the league's top five with a 26.8 PER and he's a solid candidate for the Most Improved Player award.
Much like Cousins, Davis loses the tiebreaker against the likes of Nowitzki and Howard because of the Pelicans' poor record. Unlike Cousins, though, he is baggage-free. That fact, combined with New Orleans' hosting the 2014 All-Star Game, likely makes Davis the favorite to be chosen as a roster replacement for Kobe Bryant, once the Lakers' guard is officially scratched with a knee injury.
If there's anyone left feeling, "What more could I have done?" it has to be Dragic, who is playing the best ball of his career for one of the league's biggest surprises. He's a victim of the West's absurd backcourt quality, and nothing more. The three reserve point guards taken -- Paul, Parker and Lillard -- play for three of the conference's top teams and all have strong statistical résumés. Throw in Curry, voted in by the fans and having another remarkable season for the Warriors, who are roughly even with the Suns in the standings, and there was no worse time to be the conference's "fifth-best" point guard. That's how Dragic was likely regarded, even if he's spent time at both guard positions this year.
Dragic, 27, is averaging a career-high 19.7 points, 6.1 asssists and 1.4 steals while shooting nearly 50 percent. His PER of 21.9 tops that of Parker, Lillard and Harden, who was the only shooting guard among the reserves. Given the quality of the alternatives, Dragic's omission isn't egregious. But it is a bummer that the 28-18 Suns won't have a representative.
The coaches did very well with the East's frontcourt candidates, although their jobs were made significantly easier when Nets center Brook Lopez and Hawks center Al Horford both went down to season-ending injuries. Bosh, Hibbert, Noah and Millsap are bulletproof selections: All four are playing key roles for teams that are above .500, a threshold that should count for a lot in the weaker East.
Drummond, then, is a snub in the sense that he did enough that he deserves to be included in the "potential first-time All-Stars" discussion when next year rolls around. The 20-year-old big man is averaging 12.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.4 steals while shooting 60 percent. His PER of 21.4 is near the top among East bigs and he ranks among the league leaders in field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks. He's a dominating big man in the formative stages, even if there's still work to be done when it comes to his overall defensive impact, and he has all the makings of a perennial All-Star.
Tim Duncan, Spurs
Thanks to a Russell Westbrook knee injury, neither the Thunder nor the Spurs earned more than one All-Star. Don't expect Duncan to be too broken up over his snubbing, though. The future Hall of Famer sounded indifferent to the process in recent days, and a full weekend off sounds pretty good when you're 37 years old with 14 All-Star selections to your name already.
Duncan's per-game numbers are deflated because coach Gregg Popovich is carefully managing his minutes, but he's averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per 36 minutes, and his PER of 21.5 is in the top 10 among West big men. As always, he's been a rock for a San Antonio team that ranks No. 4 in offense and No. 5 in defense. This season marks the second time in three years Duncan was left off the West's All-Star roster, but, as we were reminded in the 2013 Finals, there are few bigs you would prefer to have over Duncan in a do-or-die playoff series. There's no outrage here, though, as Aldridge, Howard and Nowitzki were all deserving.
Serge Ibaka, Thunder
Oklahoma City's forward trails Aldridge, Griffin, Love, Howard, Nowitzki, Davis and, possibly, Duncan on the West frontcourt's pecking order, but he's still worthy of a little snub love here. The 24-year-old shot-blocking, face-up jump-shooting extraordinaire is averaging a career-high 14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, while stepping into an expanded role after the departure of Kevin Martin and the injury to Westbrook.
Ibaka's PER of 19.1 is strong and his defensive impact is major. Kevin Durant deserves the lion's share of the credit for keeping Oklahoma City atop the West standings and in the top five league-wide on both sides of the ball. But not even Durant would be managing that feat without nightly help from Ibaka, who has missed just one game.
Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Toronto's point guard could be forgiven if he let fly a few profanities Thursday night. As the best all-around player on the East's third-best team, Lowry seemed like a shoo-in, but instead he will sit at home as teammate DeMar DeRozan gets the nod. It's fair to wonder whether some extenuating circumstances influenced his non-selection, because his statistical body of work (16.8 points, 7.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals) is pretty unimpeachable, particularly in comparison to Johnson's.
Lowry's 20.4 PER leads the East at his position and trails only Dwyane Wade's among all East guards. Toronto's record is superior to Cleveland's (Irving), Washington's (Wall) and Brooklyn's (Johnson), and the Raptors' turnaround after the trade of Rudy Gay has been impressive enough that an argument could have been made that they deserved two All-Stars. But even if the coaches were hellbent on spreading around the love, Lowry, 27, was the proper pick over DeRozan, as the former outperforms the latter in PER, on-court/off-court impact and win shares by healthy margins. The worst-case-scenario question should have been, "Why Johnson instead of DeRozan or Lance Stephenson?" instead of, "Why isn't Lowry on this list?"
Lance Stephenson, Pacers
There has been plenty of buzz about a possible first All-Star appearance for Stephenson, 23, and for good reason. The fourth-year guard is arguably the leading candidate for the Most Improved Player award, as his all-around output -- 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 49.9 percent shooting, 34.4 percent three-point shooting -- has scaled considerably this season, reaching career highs across the board. A jack-of-all-trades, Stephenson is also a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball, and his individual defensive rating is among the league's top 10 as the Pacers continue to lap the field when it comes to shutting down the opposition. During a regular season in which the Pacers have outperformed the Heat, it seems slightly unjust that Miami would be the only one of the two teams to land three All-Stars, even if all three (James, Wade and Bosh) were no-brainers. My personal preference would have been for Lowry and Stephenson to replace Johnson and DeRozan, respectively, with the Pacers' guard ultimately getting the roster's final spot because of his two-way play and in recognition's of Indiana's success.